13 September 2016 – Working together to boost regional trade and food security, 35 African biosecurity champions from ten Central and East African countries met on 5-9 September 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya for the third Africa Plant Biosecurity Network workshop.

The Network brings African biosecurity professionals from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe together to share information, provide ongoing mentoring, and boost training and outreach. The aim is to improve national and regional plant biosecurity, lifting crop yields and enabling safe trade.

George Ngundo Wabere is a Laboratory Manager at the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). Talking about his experience of the network, he says, “The AAPBP has been of enormous personal and professional benefit to me. I have been able to use novel diagnostic technologies learnt in Australia to improve testing of imported plants.”

Bellancile Uzayisenga is Head of the Crop Protection Programme under the Rwanda Agriculture Board. She says, “I still have good memories of my placement at Plant Health Australia and I am already applying this knowledge in Rwanda.”

Regional trade formed an important part of the workshop. Champions developed new skills in meeting international standards, negotiation of import conditions and understanding the biosecurity aspects of bulk grain imports. Post-entry quarantine, for example, is an important part of border security that can help maintain trade while keeping out pests and diseases of concern.

The Network workshop ran over five days, beginning with a focus on pest and disease diagnostics, especially the use of new molecular techniques that promise faster and more accurate identification.

The workshop also included field trips to the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), and to Biosciences East and Central Africa (BECA).

An initiative of the Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership, the Africa Plant Biosecurity Network is led by 15 Senior Biosecurity Fellows who have undertaken plant protection training in Australia and Africa, and are passing on their skills and knowledge to 30 Associate Fellow colleagues.

Dr Michael Robinson, CEO of Australia’s Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (PBCRC), said, “The Network helps us share new techniques and lets the champions acquire new pest identification skills. It offers really practical support. For example, participants can pick up the phone and talk to colleagues in other countries, who can answer a question about a particular pest.”

The Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership is led by Australia’s Plant Biosecurity CRC and funded by the AIFSRC within ACIAR and CABI. The programme is being delivered by a consortium of the Plant Biosecurity CRC, ACIAR, CABI and the Crawford Fund.

For more information about the Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership (AAPBP), see our project page and watch the AAPBP video.

Image: Biosecurity champions visit Biosciences East and Central Africa (BECA), ©PBCRC

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